Monthly Archives: November 2011

Photo Of The Day: Attack On All Fronts

Here’s another example of the vintage posters from World War II that are on display at the Caen Memorial Museum in Normandy, France.

Attack On All Fronts vintage Canadian World War II poster at Caen Memorial Museum in Normandy, France

This strikingly diagonal 3 person image from 1943 summoned up a spirit of patriotism and reminded the Canadian public that the war was fought on the home front as well as the front lines of the battlegrounds.

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Choucroute Soiree in Normandy, France

Posh food? Not really. Sophisticated music? Not really. An entire Friday night of fun in France? Absolutely!

We’ve met some lovely people as we’ve travelled through France this year and those include our friends Marian and her husband Fred in the Calvados region of Normandy. A few weeks ago we were invited along to a village ‘do’ in Sept-Vents and Marian told us to expect a lively evening. She certainly wasn’t exaggerating.

The food was choucroute, a French version of sauerkraut and pork with potatoes — and along with the starters, wine, and dessert, it was quite a hearty meal and well worth the €15 per person since there was entertainment to follow. The picture below is of my own plate after I had smeared the tops of the sausages with a punchy Dijon mustard.

Choucroute dinner at a soiree in Sept-Vents, Calvados in Normandy, France

Almost everyone at our table spoke only French, but they were charming to us and Marian translated when necessary. The highlight of the evening arrived rather late though and it was well after 9 PM when the musicians finally began to play. What a surprise was in store.

Marian and Fred at the Choucroute Soiree in Sept-Vents, Calvados in Normandy, France

Country music — Billy Ray Cyrus “Achey-Breaky-Heart” style American country music — and the hundreds of people there all seemed to know the words by heart! Slowly at first and then gaining pace, people rose from the tables and flowed onto the dance floor to do the Texas Two Step, the Boot Scoot Boogie, or plain old line dancing.

American style country line dancing in the French countryside of Normandy

We were flabbergasted at finding this hard-core group of country music enthusiasts in rural Normandy, but then again, these were all country folks — farmers and truck drivers and people who worked in tiny village shops. I guess for some people country music transcends national boundaries.

Next we heard Celtic music coming from the stage and the country dancing morphed into Celtic circle dancing. From young to old, the floor was packed with smiling faces. And didn’t they let their hair down and dance, dance, dance the night away. From new-style country music and movement to old-world traditional country songs and dancing, it was an evening that we will never forget.

Celtic circle dancing at a Choucroute Soiree in Normandy, France

Even if you are travelling in a country where you have little ability to speak the local language, I’d like to gently suggest that you try to get past your anxiety about the language barrier and go out with the locals as you travel overseas. You’ll soon see how friendly and welcoming people can be, especially in the smaller towns and villages where a smiling face and some hand gestures along with a lot of please and thank you in the local dialect can get you a very long way.
©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Beachy In Brehal

Winter has descended on Normandy and all of the wool clothing has been unpacked. We’re back at the seaside for a week or more of out-of-season stay in a marvelous 6 bedroom beach house named MAISON MIELLES in the lovely small seaside town of Brehal. Make sure you click on the link for Maison Mielles and have a look. If you are ever thinking of having a holiday in Normandy near the beach, this place is simply splendid!

What I didn’t know prior to our arrival in Brehal was that we would be within visual range of Granville — a place that I mentioned wanting to return to in a previous post. As we walk the two dogs that we are dog-sitting along the curve of the bay, we can quite literally see Granville in the distance.

Spot the springer spaniel in his basket at the beach house in Brehal, Normandy, France


Dougal the cocker spaniel asleep in his basket at the beach house in Brehal, Normandy, France

It’s too cold and gray today for me to be walking through the stone streets and alleyways for those picturesque views, but as soon as we have a sunny day — we’re off! As it is, I’ll be getting my fair share of brisk exercise on the second long walk of the day with the dogs. Mark does the early morning hour-plus with the sweet wee beasties and I join him in the afternoon so that they’re tired and they sleep well at night. Think along the lines of getting a toddler good and tired and you’ll understand!

Mark is quite happy to have some peaceful time for his cross-stitch and I have a backlog of writing and photo editing to do this week. So keep watching for more posts and photos of places that we have visited in Normandy in the last month or so.

Mark working on cross stitch at the beach house in Brehal, Normandy, France

Bye for now!

Spot dreaming in his basket at the beach house in Brehal, Normandy, France

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Cheerful Chutney in Normandy, France

Several of you have written and asked for the recipe for the apple chutney after seeing the photos of the organic apples yesterday and watching the video that I took of Mark operating the mechanical apple peeler.

Organic apples in Normandy, France


Book of Preserves from the Women's Institute in the UK

I got this recipe from The Book of Preserves by the Women’s Institute in the UK.

Recipe for apple chutney

I won’t exaggerate, but it takes a lot of apples, raisins and/or dates, and chopped onions along with a hefty amount of spices to make a mere 3-4 fat jam sized jars of the finished product. So if you have plenty of large pans or kettles for simmering, you could double or triple the recipe and make a lot more of this in one go. As it was, we only had two large pans to work with. So we were doing one large pan of apple compote (simply chopped apples, no sugar, no spices, simmered for 4 hours until it looks like applesauce and is all natural!) and one pan of chutney.

This recipe produces 2 500 ml (18 fluid ounce) jars of chutney and it goes really well with cheese and meat and sandwiches. We ate some the other night with a chicken quiche. Yum!

Here’s the recipe.

250 g (9 oz) onions, chopped
1 kg (2 lb & 4 oz) cooking apples, cored and chopped
125 g (4-1/2 oz) sultanas, raisins, or chopped dates
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 tablespoon salt
350 g (12 oz) granulated sugar
700 ml (1-1/4 pints) malt vinegar

1. Put all ingredients into a large pan. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring often, until the sugar has completely dissolved.

2. Simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, stirring from time to time to stop the chutney sticking to the pan.

3. After the shortest cooking time, start checking if the chutney is ready by dragging a channel through the mixture with a wooden spoon so that the bottom of the pan is visible. If the channel immediately fills with liquid, the chutney is not ready. Cook for a further 15 minutes and then check again. The chutney is ready when the channel does not fill and the mixture is very thick.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand briefly. Carefully pour the chutney into hot sterilised jars and seal. Allow the chutney to cool completely before labelling and storing in a cool, dark cupboard. Store for at least 2 months before eating.


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Abundantly Awash In Normandy Apples

Apples — we have an abundance of organic apples here at the house in Normandy where we are house sitting and child sitting for friends while they are in England at a conference.

It’s been remarkable to see how the apple processing in our mini production line has sped up each day as we got into the groove of peeling (with Mark’s expert assistance!), coring, chopping, and stirring-stirring-stirring.

Peeling and chopping apples in Normandy, France

Yesterday we did all of the peeling by hand since I was having problems with the mechanical peeler. And Mark certainly did come in handy when he saw how slowly I was going!

Peeling apples for chutney and compote in Normandy, France

But the most successful (and speedy!) method has been to use the small red metal mechanical peeler as seen in the video below.

Memories of canning and bottling and bread baking when my children were small have come drifting to the surface and the juggling of hot sterilised jars is now back to being second nature.

But I’d honestly forgotten how much fruit it takes to simmer down into a comparably tiny amount of final product. So I moaned a bit when I saw how few jars were created after the first on-my-feet-all-day of kitchen work. An entire afternoon and evening and only SEVEN jars???

Finished jars of apple chutney and compote

But oh my — the fragrance of apple chutney and apple compote bubbling away for hours!

Off to a new part of Normandy in a few days. Keep coming back to read about new adventures in living on the road!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Granville in Normandy: Seaside Views and Memories

There is simply no way to escape. The visible signs of the past are ever-present in this part of France and a simple trip to the seaside has turned once again into a history lesson.

After driving through the autumn coloured countryside of Normandy for an hour from our current location near Mortain, we passed through Avranches and drove on to Granville. Mark asked me, “Want to take a walk on the beach?” We parked the car and descended down the sharply angled street and I could immediately see that this was not the types of beach we were accustomed to.

Walking down the ramp to the beach at Granville on the Normandy coast of France

Gray stone, jagged boulders, and sand littered with shards and shells lay before us. What a contrast to our familiar Australian or American blonde-sand covered and fairly rock-free beaches.

Rock strewn beach at Granville on the Normandy coast of France

Back in the car, we passed the bustling port full of ships in all sizes, whisked quickly through the ‘new town’, and ascended the road toward the historic ‘old town’ Granville until we had reached the rocky peak. At the edge of the cliff, just outside the stone walls of the old town, we could see a lighthouse.

Lighthouse at Granville on the Normandy coast of France

The wind was so gusty that we had to plant each foot firmly as we walked. But the surprise that we encountered was that all around the lighthouse in an arc along the top of the ridge overlooking the sea were concrete bunkers left over from World War II. That dark bump on the left in the photo above turned out to be one of these relics of the past.

Coastal fortifications from WW II at Granville on the Normandy coast of France

During their active use, they each stored rather a lot of ammunition and had soldiers with a machine gun atop which had been mounted into the concrete. Today they provide an impromptu place to rest or an object for children to scramble over.

Gun emplacements from WW II at Granville on the Normandy coast of France


View from the 'old town' overlook toward the newer part of Granville on the Normandy coast of France


View of the port area and 'new town' Granville on the Normandy coast of France from high atop 'old town'

We plan to go back in a week or two and this time we will walk up and down those narrow streets in the ancient historic section. We were ‘stuck’ in the car on very thin one-way streets with no place to just get out for a few random minutes and take a photos. But there were far too many beautiful angles of light and shadow against stone walls within the old town for me not to visit on another sunny day.
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One of Those “Only In France” Kind of Stories

Seriously??? Do YOU really fancy a bit of wildlife interaction as part of your ‘retail experience’ on the weekend? This is truly one of those “only in France” stories.

Down in the Pyrenees in the south of France, a wild boar caused Saturday shoppers to flee as it raced through the packed-with-people retail district in Toulouse on Saturday frightening the shoppers. I don’t know how I would have reacted in that situation!

The link for the story is here — complete with a news video (all in French).

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